Would You Rather (2012)
Review by Jude Felton
Sometimes a film comes along and, while it might not be wholly original, just makes me smile throughout its running time. In the case of Would You Rather it is a deliciously sinister smile, as it forces your compliance with the events that unfold on screen. This is one insanely humorous and very dark movie; one which I plan on watching many times.
The premise of the film is that Iris (Brittany Snow) receives an offer to attend a private dinner function. Nothing spectacular about that, but if she attends she has the chance of wiping out all her financial concerns, and more importantly than that she will be able to provide some much needed healthcare for her sick brother. All she needs to do is play a game. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, of course it is.
Also invited to the dinner are several other folk, all of whom have their own dark secrets and financial problems, and all are eager to get their lives back on track. The dinner party itself all starts off in a very relaxed and pleasant manner, then talk of the game begins, with the game being ‘Would you rather’. For example, would you rather walk on a bed of hot coals or bath in iced water? Only here, whichever one you choose, you have to do.
From a fairly pleasant atmosphere the film takes a gradual dark turn; from here on in you will start to feel just a little uncomfortable. Then, before you know it, the discomfort will hit you like a hammer to the head when the film changes tack and tone in an instant. Would You Rather is dark, pitch black in fact, and whilst there is a thick vein of black humor throughout, this film will make you squirm in your seat and ask you what you would do in the same situation.
The ringleader to this madness is Shepard Lambrick, the host of the party, who is played with absolute perfection by Jeffrey Combs. Polite yet undeniable firm in the rules of the game, this is Combs at his best and certainly one of his best performances since Re-Animator. Seriously, he is just an utter delight to watch, and he is ably supported by the rest of the cast.
Now, certain similarities could be drawn between Would You Rather and films such as the Saw franchise, or even the Red Room flicks, but this is very much its own film. Everyone at the party is there of their own choice; they aren’t being punished. And, whilst this is a violent and at times quite brutal film, it is not especially bloody. When the violence comes, and it does quite frequently, it hurts, it hurts a lot, and it’s shot in such a matter of fact way, without lingering on it.
Would You Rather is one of those films of which you’ll think it is gorier than it actually is. The violence is there on screen, but it is your imagination, more so than your eyes, that will do the damage. Don’t get me wrong though, director David Guy Levy does not flinch away from anything, he just knows what we need to see, and what we don’t.
In fact, it is the performance by Combs, and his loyal butler Bevans (Jonathan Coyne), that make this an even darker film; they are both unerringly polite, yet cold in their execution. Would You Rather is a film that is totally dependent on the performances of the cast, in order to maximize the power of the story, and fortunately they achieve this perfectly.
Would You Rather was a fun film, from start to finish, even at its darkest moments. It doesn’t always go where you think it might, and the ending, without giving anything away, is a punch to the gut. Sick, twisted and an absolute joy to watch, Would You Rather is one of the most enjoyable film experiences I have had so far this year.
Would You Rather is now available on VOD from IFC Midnight.